I like romances in all degrees of sensuality, but after seeing the steamy cover of Starlight, Starbright, I admit I was looking forward to some seriously hot love scenes. Unfortunately, this was the least of my disappointments as far as this book was concerned.
Lovely Serena is a gifted young woman about to be married. She has been hearing voices since she was little and, although, she doesn't know it, her gift is one that will prove valuable to the inhabitants of the planet Ulata. While Serena prepares her future home and wonders if she will ever truly love Trenek, her betrothed, Commander Darian Vondrak watches from afar, and prepares to take Serena away from everything she has known.
How does Serena react? We never really know. We know she is enchanted by Darian and wildly attracted to him, we know she wonders about what will happen to her when the strange people she can't communicate with take her away, but it's a year before we hear Serena's thoughts and concerns about her family back home. In said year she has joined the Sisterhood of Trezhellas, a group of women who have the ability to communicate telepathically, but that, despite their advanced capabilities, have remained stagnated in the past. To say that Trezhellas distrust men would be a serious understatement. They are annoyingly anti-men and remain cloistered in their sumptuous mansion, undergoing training and waiting for the time they will be called to service. Serena is far more gifted than any of the other sisters and she is asked to take part in a mission that will take her farther than any Ulatan has ever traveled.
As Serena struggles with her decision, we find out (via flashback) that she and Darian gave in to their mutual attraction and slept together often during the trip back to Ulata. Serena is not sure she wants to see Darian again, since time in the Sisters' company has convinced her that he merely used her as he has many before and undoubtedly will use many in the future.
Darian is, of course, torn between the woman he has come to love and his duties as Commander of the mission. Actually, he really isn't, because considering how many times he carries her around the ship and how many times Serena forgets protocol and refers to him as "Dar- (insert image of Serena blushing here) Commander Vondrak" it's no surprise the whole crew quickly figures out their relationship.
While Darian remained a blurry - although hunky - figure, he was easily the one I liked the best. He admits and pledges his love to Serena and never wavers, and he must also swallow his pride when she ends up saving him twice. He also realizes Serena is keeping a secret from him, and even though it could mean the difference between going home and ending up like the crew in Star Trek: Voyager, he never forces her to admit what she knows. I ended up howling with laughter, though, when, after a bout of lovemaking, Darian jumps off the bed and announces "we've just fired a probe" - Somehow I doubt my reaction was what the author intended.
Serena, however, went beyond annoyance for me. She is beyond lovely, beyond gifted, she is The Heroine Who Can Do Anything. Never mind she has never piloted a craft before, never mind she hates violence, never mind . . . well, just never mind. She is also aware that there is something in her world that could make all the difference to Darian, but she keeps it secret, questioning his motives although she knows by now he is a decent man. Furthermore, she has the habit of asking too many questions. In her mind. Did Darian know about her secret? Had he guessed? Would he leave her without saying goodbye? Were the zhetlas the same as the teldas in her world? Had she become a Ulatan and forgotten her heritage? And on and on and on, for a total of more than one hundred questions throughout the book. I know because I counted them. Did I grow tired of this? Did I wish I could skip paragraphs with question marks? Was I glad when this book ended?
Add to this the fact that the Great Evil Enemy never makes a worthy appearance and well, just about every aspect of this story failed to engage me. No hot love scenes as indicated by the cover, no substance despite a plot that was promising, and villains that spent 99% of the book off-stage, so to speak. I will continue on my quest to find entertaining fantasy and futuristic romances, but Starlight, Starbright is one book I cannot recommend.